Challenges for Europe by Hugh Stephenson (eds.)

By Hugh Stephenson (eds.)

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Mundell himself assumed explicitly that two countries adopting a fixed exchange rate would not merge their central banks; he was dealing in effect with a simple currency union (what Max Corden once called a pseudo monetary union2) rather than a full-fledged monetary union with a supranational central bank like the ECB. Countries confront two types of long-lasting shocks: expenditurechanging shocks (that is, exogenous changes in consumption or investment) and expenditure-switching shocks (that is, exogenous shifts of demand between home and foreign goods).

But no single firm, or foreign-exchange dealer, can create that market. No single dealer can do so, because a dealer needs other dealers in order to engage in the ‘wholesale’ trading required to manage exchange rate exposure. That is why any such change in the monetary system would require coordination. There have been some interesting changes in foreign exchange markets. In Hungary, for example, bilateral forint/euro trading appears to account for a larger fraction of total currency trading than did Assessing the Euro: Expectations and Achievements 43 bilateral forint/Deutschmark trading before the advent of the euro.

If Europeans choose both to produce less and to consume less, that has no consequences for competitive sustainability. Provided Europeans understand the consequences of their trade-offs – for instance, that shorter hours mean lower GDP per capita – there is nothing unsustainable about that choice. But choices could become unsustainable, if based on inconsistent assumptions: for instance, on decisions to do less work without accepting the consequences of lower income. And there is certainly one European social choice that is unsustainable – the current combination of birth rates, retirement ages and explicit or implicit pension promises.

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